As I was driving in my car today, several radio shows and news programs were discussing everything from the federally mandated health coverage to unemployment benefits and other “safety net” programs. A commentary also came into my email prior to my leaving the office about the difference between the unemployment numbers not representing the full number of people out of work; this commentary pointed out that the figure would be in the mid-to-high double digits if the unemployment rate reported included those who had stopped looking for work. This raised the question for me: When do “safety net” programs become “way of life” programs?
If you look at a trapeze act in a circus, the performers do their daring flying act above a net, just in case something goes wrong … equipment breaks (economy or a particular business closes for instance), someone’s grip slips (a major health issue arises or an employer does a layoff), or someone misses the catch (you train or get an education in a field where no one is hiring or you need to retrain because the skill sets needed have changed). The safety net is there to catch the person or persons who fall as a result of that thing that went wrong. It is a life-saver—for that particular moment.
But the image I have in my mind is when that person who hits the net gets up, bouncing, and gets out of the net…exiting under his/her own power to wave to the crowd and rejoin the act (getting back to business). Occasionally the person needs some assistance getting out of /off the net because of an injury, and their fellow performers gather around them to help. The one thing I never see is that person staying in the net for the rest of the performance, after the show, or for the rest of his/her life.
We live our lives without safety nets that catch us when we fall and enable us to bounce back up and return to the show. Instead we are living with fishing nets that are catching us, hanging us up, and putting us on a boat to a system that puts us in the equivalent of an aquarium where we must be fed, cared for, and tended (welfare) or tosses us into the food chain of being consumed by faceless entities known as “government” program safety nets when all we want to do is earn an honest living.
Safety nets or fishing nets? They look similar but their purposes are very different. One catches us when we fall and we can bounce back. The other takes us out of our element and leaves our fate up to someone else.
Some days I will admit it seems attractive to have someone else take charge of earning a living, but those days come less from the effort that it takes to earn a living and more from the frustration of seeing how much goes out to taxes for entitlement programs that are fishing nets and to dysfunctional government gathering up the reins of control via those programs. No matter how hard a particular day is; it is preferable to giving up freedom and self-respect in return.
Author: Lea A. Strickland, MBA CMA CFM CBM GMC
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